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Broadcast Solution for Public Access TV, Part 2

Jun 28, 2011 12:14 PM, with Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

Wise budgeting is essential for a public educational and government access TV station. Network and technical manager Patrick Thorpe has balanced the old and the new production gear at Montgomery Community Media and he's back to wrap up his talk about how it all gets done. Up next on the SVC podcast.
Pat, thanks for being back with us for Part 2 from Montgomery Community Media, a PEG station in Rockville, Md. We talked earlier about new JVC camera upgrade and what a big step up that was for you, but you mentioned when we got in touch about this that you were having some work done on your master control automation. Tell me a little bit about what you're doing in there.

We're working on the first part of our master control upgrade. We hope to do the rest or another major portion this year and we use a system called Synergy from Synergy Broadcast which an automation system. We've had it for 6-7 years now—got it in around 2003 and this was an upgrade/crossgrade from the old system to the new system and we were just a couple of weeks short of where we needed to be getting that done. The old server crashed and crashed hard the week before Christmas and Synergy was really fantastic in just keeping us on the air, but we were never able to recover the server. It was well beyond age and well out of spec—part of that upgrade thing where you really need to be doing servers on a 3-4 basis and we're on a 7-year basis. So we really refreshed the system. Their system is a…basically a master control computer with a server and then two encoding machines and along with that the company bought what they call a Translink transcoder engine which is a DVD ripper and will rip almost any kind of file to any kind of other file and I have to say the master control guys love the transcoding engine. [Timestamp: 2:28]

I'll bet they do and they're going to keep loving it with all these different formats.
Right and we really have end of trouble with DVDs just because there's so many varieties but a lot people wanted to do it and we moved in that direction and up to this point they've really had to encode them, if they were going to put them in the server, live which means for a 30 minute show it's 30 minutes to encode. Well right after they got the installation done one of the master control guys, he helped me and he said—it was at the beginning of the quarter when a lot of people submit programs and he said, "I went through 110 DVDs"—which would probably be 50 hours worth of normal work, "in one ten-hour day." So he was just able to process enormous amounts of content in a single day, which would have normally taken more than a week for them to do if they were working hard at it all day long. So pretty good purchase on that—we're really happy with that system. And the other system is just a modern server. We were using a quad with the output device under the old server which is a four stream, four channel output device and the new one uses Vella cards but they're actually inside the server and there's one channel output per, we have two channels—19 and 21, one channel output per unit. So it's an upgrade, those cards are supposed to be able to handle HD-SDi and to do up-converting, down-converting, cross-converting. We haven't really tried any of that yet but we're going to bank it on that down the road that that's going to be able to be the base point to build an HD master control system back around. [Timestamp: 4:02]

Well anything that stretches your manpower is going to be worth its weight in whatever you have to pay for it. That's the name of the game now. So tell me a little bit about your audio, we've been talking about all the video stuff but how do you handle audio things there?
We're still on the analog audio. We like analog audio. I don't really want to switch out of analog audio…we may eventually be forced to but we use Mackie mixers in the studio. They used just some small ones in the field—they don't have real professional mixing in the field but a lot of people just don't really do that. They're straight into the camera and just monitor levels there. [Timestamp: 4:36]

A Mackie's easy on the training. That's for sure.
It's easy on the training and it's an inexpensive item. I think we replaced the one in Studio B. It was a 16-channel and I forget, it's their newer model, it was 12 or $1,300 for that unit and to replace the 32-channel one in Studio A was…it was like $2,000—it was like some of the most cheapest equipment we ever buy and some of the most durable and it works really so we're real happy with that kind of stability. [Timestamp: 5:05]

Have you got any sort of IFB system there for your on-air people?
Yeah for Com audio we're using an RTS system which goes back probably 25 years. That system really hasn't been improved that much—an extremely durable, re-buildable headsets or com-boxes break down…there are…parts still out there and we still get them fixed. That's one system…eventually we'd kind of like to get replaced but it's a big system—two studios and 30, 40, 50 headsets and boxes and producers stations and all that's going to add up to be a pretty big chunk of money so as long as this one keeps working we'll probably stick with it. [Timestamp: 5:45]

Yeah it tends to be durable. I've seen those things dragged all over the place with the remote trucks and it just keeps on working—everybody knows how to operate the system once you've got a lot of people coming through there. So what are you doing for video switching?
Camera switching; we're on Ross for most of the county. I think the other PEG operators and ourselves are using Ross. So we've got a Ross Synergy II in Studio A that's an SDi switcher it was put in fall of 2006. It's a still dynamite working unit. It's a two full whammy switcher and then in Studio B last year we put in a Ross Vision QMD which is also a 2ME switcher. People are interested in doing a lot of green screen in that studio a lot of faux virtual set type arrangements. That one we really purchased with a number of keyers and still stores built in, multiple channels, a DVE to facilitate that and that's been a good unit. We really do like it and it's a multidef unit so…but that studio is primed to go HD assuming we can get the money together for cameras and recording decks and routers and monitor walls and all of that equipment. [Timestamp: 6:57]

And how are you doing graphics there?
Graphics were on a number of different systems, obviously for editing, we're in Final Cut, After Effects, we've got CS suites on most of the computers that use editing and then for in-studio stuff we have Harris inscribers Harris Inca Store which is a still picture store which I think is no longer on the market anymore. We also still are using our Pinnacle Deco's and Pinnacle Lighting that we've had for 10, 12, 13 years. So those are pretty good systems. They've been fairly reliable. One of the Harris inscribers has blown a power supply like twice in a row and we're actually coming up on the year anniversary of that…just real weird just all of a sudden just flaked out and blew a power supply and we had to get that replaced but other than that they're dynamite units. People get use to using them and one time there was a big fear among Access people and others about how they would handle new graphics and new graphics systems but anymore so many of them are lined up and do things similarly that people just pick up and run with that stuff almost immediately. [Timestamp: 8:06]

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